Life at the end of the road

December 23, 2017

The longest night

Filed under: animals, boats, daily doings — Tags: , , — lifeattheendoftheroad @ 7:12 pm

Friday here and we’re Internet less again so this will be coming from my 3 Mi Fi device anywhere I can find a signal. Well, it’s been a boodly windy day here on the ferry for sure.

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A good steady Force 9 from the south west on the Beaufort scale when we arrived on Hallaig at 7:00. The Captain took the wise decision not to sail as it looked like there was more on the way, no point taking risks in the dark but we did sail at 8:55.

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The squalls off the Cuilin down Loch Sligachan regularly topping 60 knots !!!! We did one more sailing then ‘knocked it on the head’ until 14:30. At lunchtime I went to see my wee pal Bonzo


but by then it was pure pishing down and I couldn’t drag the ‘wee dug’ out of the house. Instead I had a bowl of ice cream with his master Peter and we looked through some old pictures together.

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This one of ‘The end of the road’ must have been taken before I moved there in 1989 as I planted some trees there and now they’re about 20’ tall. That’ll be my boy at the same sign and he’s at university now!!

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I had to smile at this though, a book of knitting patterns from WWII specially designed for the Merchant Navy. What made me smile was the fact that I used to a very similar book for the army from WWI Smile Something along the lines of ‘Knitwear for the trenches’ complete with Balaclavas and my favourite, the knee warmers.

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Just like this pair, I did have a pair but they kept falling down Sad smile

The solstice has past Smile woo hoo

It’s easy to see why our ancestors got so excited about the winter solstice and built the likes of Callanish and Stonehenge. I truly hate this time of year with the short, short days and unpredictable weather. Illogically I see the passing of the shortest day as a sign that things will improve, yet I know that isn’t the case, there will be much worse to come before the spring equinox. Still, it is one of the year’s milestones by with, just like the snowdrop, wheatear, clock change, cuckoo, mayflower et al. Then of course there is always Christmas, the festival the Christians hijacked, I love that Smile The early church set the date as 25th December so it would coincide with the Pagan solstice and Roman Saturnalia  . No one is actually certain when Jesus was born but it certainly was not December the 25th or AD1. General consensus is around AD 4 to 5 and somewhere between June and October. A classic bit of early corporate rebranding I would say. Whatever the reason it does come at a time of year when lots of people in the Northern Hemisphere do need cheering up.

Me, I can’t wait, the Aldi wine arrived yesterday, the home grown chicken is plucked and the presents are under the tree.


Well, they are now, that pictures a week old,


as is this one of the extra crewman, he’s now got a puncture and is lying in a heap Sad smile Job for Sunday methinks.

They gotta be kidding

One thing about boats is that everything is expensive but this simple ‘limit switch’ that we got a quote for recently really is the limit Smile


There are around 9000 similar switches on eBay between £1.99 and £128 but this is a quality German one made by so I’d expect to be paying up to a couple of hundred quid for it but check out that quote from Survitec UK £1092 !!!! You could not make it up really could you, I bet one for the space shuttle wouldn’t be that expensive Smile


Sun rising over the Moll fish farm on the 20th.


Raasay’s only commercial fishing boat, MFV Lustre at the end of long day.

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A fine start and finish to yesterday, though ‘red sky in morning sailors warning’ didn’t happen and yesterday’s ‘red sky at night shepherds delight’ proved a little optimistic, we missed four sailings today.

Still the four missed sailings gave me chance to spend hours interrogating the data we’d logged over the last couple of days from our 216 LiFePO4 battery modules.


After four years of daily usage, around 1400 cycles to 80% DoD (depth of discharge) our European Battery modules are holding up very well, shame the company went bust Sad smile Still, we do get excellent support from the company that fitted them. The graph represents one charge cycle for 54 of the modules from 20% SoC (state of charge) to 100% , the spike and tail off at the end is the last hour and is the cells being balanced by the BMS (battery management system).

Bonzo chasing a plate cos he didn’t go out for his usual lunchtime walk.

Someone who did get an unexpected walk was this two tentacled octopus the the ‘Wilk Maester’ found on the slip at 18:00

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With six of his legs missing he was hardly worth eating so we threw him back and off he swam, the ‘Wilk Maester’ reckoned that he’d been dragged up the slip by an otter. Probably right as they are often seen playing round here. He swam off pretty sharp right enough and there was plenty of suction left in his tentacles but they usually change colour to match there surroundings and this one didn’t, or at least not very well. Mind you, I guess that if I’d had six legs gnawed off I’d not be feeling 100% but normally it’s amazing to watch them. If I caught one in the creels whilst fishing I’d put them on the grey deck they’d turn grey, stick them to a buoy and the creature would instantly change to red, almost like a traffic light.

November 28, 2016

Not yer typical Sunday :-)

I just do love Sundays at work, I guess cos it comes after Saturday, which is my least favourite day. I say ‘least favourite’ rather than the day I dislike cos on the whole they’re all pretty good. Sad as it may seem, I really do like my job, not because my life away from it is so dull, on the contrary, far from it. The work thing is often a good rest from the labours ‘on the croft’ or at least all the madness I get up to at home.

Sunday is the most laid back day of the week, a late start and early finish with a good space in between to catch up on drills plus maintenance.  Hot on the heels of ‘the longest day’, Sunday is always a joy and we’ve always got ‘the big breakfast’ to look forward to.

Of course my Sunday starts as soon as I get home on Saturday night after the late ferry, it’s usually after 22:00 and there’ll normally be a glass of wine waiting for me Smile My treat of the ‘working week’ is usually a fine glass or two of red that I’ve been dreaming of for almost a week. Well this Saturday night I had a surprise in store, not my usual ‘tipple’ but a beer specially brewed  for the Raasay Distillery and finished off in oak red wine casks.

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Raasay Brewing Co. Whisky Oak-Aged Beer

During the cake competition, some of our R&B team headed off to do a little exciting preparation work for the evening event. Raasay Brewing Company worked with Plockton Brewery to oak-age beer in a Raasay While We Wait red wine finishing cask – and newly bottled they needed labelling! 200 odd bottles later of ‘Groundwork’ we just had time for a quick drive up to Brochel Castle to take in the swiftly-changing view (hidden by magical mist one moment and sunny blue skies the next) before heading to the Isle of Raasay Distillery site for the ‘fire’ element of Whisky, Fire & Song.

R&B Chris Hoban labelling Raasay Brewing Co. & Plockton Brewery collaboration beer for Whisky, Fire & Song  Groundwork Beer by Raasay Brewing Co & Plockton Brewery for Whisky, Fire & Song 2016


Another thing I love about Sunday at this time of year is seeing a little daylight on the commute into work.

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True to the forecast it was a fine day.

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We had however a pretty full schedule of work over and above the usual drills. Checking inside the forepeak for one, even though it was just a ‘visual’ from above the space needed thoroughly ventilating first and checking for noxious gasses and of course oxygen.

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Then, after the boat and anchor drills it was the serious business of doing some work on Hallaig’s battery banks. A minor discrepancy had been picked up on the annual ‘health check’ which is when each of the 216 LiFePO4 modules is individually monitored for performance by the company that installed them, formally IMTECH but now called RH Marine Three of the batteries, modules as they call them were showing some minor discrepancies in their BMS (battery management system) cards. Whilst this was very simple to fix in theory, just a matter of removing the affected cards squeezing the terminals together and then applying some ‘contact paste’, it’s not so easy in practice.

Each battery needs to be removed, the card taken out repaired and then replaced. However, we are talking a nominal voltage here of 750VDC so isolation procedures, insulated tools, PPE and training are mandatory. As of course is careful planning and a risk assessment. So, after the ‘BIG BREAKFAST’ we had our ‘toolbox talk’ filled in the ‘permit to work’ and got on with it.


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The red gauntlet thing is a special tool for removing that big fuse, it’s an old picture with the black glove and long hair Smile  The latest ones are in the first picture, these have to be replaced every 6 months in case they degrade or crack.

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One of the three that had to come out was an end one and they’re a little tricky but once out it’s just a matter of carefully removing the cards one at a time and making the connections good again.


With that all done it was time to check the spare batteries we carry on board, first the meter is put on and the voltage noted, 13.34 so all good.

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Then just to make sure it’s not a spurious reading a headlamp bulb is put in circuit for 30 seconds and the meter observed. The voltage inevitably falls slightly but shouldn’t ‘collapse’ then when the load is removed it should rise again to very near the original reading. This it did, to 13.33 but I bet if I check it again tomorrow it’ll be back up to 13.34. These LiFePO4 spare batteries have never been charged in 3 years!!! That is an incredibly slow rate of ‘self discharge’, any other battery chemistry would be flat after 3 years ‘on the shelf’.


Well, once more my son got me to work on an untreated road without mishap, no thanks to ‘Highland Region’ though. He went off to school for the week and I started my last couple of days at work this shift. First job was to chop down a whole load of stainless steel M20 screws from 80mm to 40mm, methinks someone cocked up on the ordering Smile

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Trick is to put a nut on, set it to the right height then cut them with a 1mm thick cutting disc using the nut as a guide. Next debur with a file and clean with a wire brush. I was very proud of my ‘ten little soldiers’ but forgot to take a picture Smile

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The clam diving boat Auk was once more ‘picking away’ in the narrows, methinks it’s an Aquastar 40’ with an extended wheelhouse. A fine choice for a group of divers, stable, fast and comfy Smile

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This morning had us sampling some fine homemade black pudding from one of our customers. This will be from Cuddy and we were much impressed, there seems to be some fine black pudding makers here on Raasay. Calum Don, Andrew Palmer and Jessie Nicolson’s  are some of the few I’ve sampled but I’m certainly not going to start a war by passing verdict on here Smile Suffice to say they were all first class Smile

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Another of today’s jobs was replacing a thermal trip relay for a drive cooling pump. A simple enough job once it had been isolated and photographed so I could get the wires in the right place Smile

That’s it really, only one more day and I’ll be starting my ‘rest period’ as CalMac call it, aye right Smile

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